The central character of the Stossel story was a Texas SPCA official by the name of Dave Garcia. Mr. Garcia has been the driving force behind his chapter's dubious "success," and was not an altogether praiseworthy soul in Mr. Stossel's report.
Now, there's been a very interesting development, having to do with Mr. Garcia's background and the trial of someone who is facing animal cruelty charges brought through the good offices of the SPCA-Tx's Mr. Garcia:
New information in a Smith County animal cruelty case may allow the defendant to walk free.
The information came about in some anonymous faxes to the judge and defense attorney. Julia McMurrey was in court yesterday, but the judge reset her trial for next month because of the new information.
McMurrey founded PAWS Around the Planet, where the SPCA of Texas seized close to 200 sick and malnourished dogs two years ago. She's already been convicted on one count of animal cruelty, but is charged with two more counts.
Right now, the McMurrey case hinges on more than a dozen pieces of paper. The anonymous faxes include documents detailing the criminal record of the state's key witness, Dave Garcia.
He's the VP of Operations at the SPCA of Texas in Dallas and the one who seized the dogs from McMurrey in 2003. Garcia has been convicted on multiple felony and misdemeanor DWI's in several states, and has a warrant for his arrest in Arizona. [My emphasis . . . ed]
A source whose anonymity I wish to protect tells me Mr. Garcia has 2 misdemeanor DWI convictions and 1 felony DWI conviction in Missouri, and the warrant for his arrest in Arizona is for failing to appear to answer yet another charge of DWI.
All of this comes as a surprise to District Attorney Matt Bingham, who never received the faxes. The judge gave them to him.
It has Bingham reconsidering his case against McMurrey and whether he should use Garcia as a witness.
"The fact that he has a felony DWI, in and of itself, does not cause me to automatically disbelieve him," Bingham said. "The prosecutor did ask him. And the fact that, if this is him, he did not mention this, concerns me."
Indeed . . . Mr. Garcia's failure to disclose his past when asked to do so should be a concern — a big one.
McMurrey's attorney, Joel Baker, says the DA's office should have checked Garcia's criminal background.
"If I had been made aware of that before that trial, we may have used that information to impeach his credibility," Baker said.
My source adds this to the mix: ". . . he (Garcia), or someone with his name and date of birth, has a 1976 conviction for an extremely serious felony from Arizona that involved a 9 to 12 year sentence in prison." Whether or not the two are one and the same is still an open question, but should they be, I would think it would bear on the present case.
But Bingham says the defense would not be able to impeach Garcia as a witness.
"A DWI is not a crime of moral turpitude," Bingham said. "The law says you can have a DWI and still be an honest person."
This is thin indeed. The convictions are not the issue, the failure to disclose is. It amounts to a lie through omission. Mr. Garcia did not tell the whole truth, but merely part of it.
Mr. Garcia was not entirely forthcoming when asked by the DA, nor apparently was he willing to abide by the law and appear at a court hearing, the result of his failure to appear being that he evidently has an active warrant out for his arrest.
Both his failure to disclose and his failure to appear (if true) are concerns that go straight to his credibility. And if he really is the person who served time for the "extremely serious felony", that too would be important for me to know if I were on a jury and had to evaluate his credibility.
Bingham says, if he decides to continue with the trial, he hopes the jury will not be tainted by this new information.
However, Baker says he may try to reverse McMurrey's conviction.
If Bingham decides to proceed with the case, the trial is set for August 17.
We contacted the SPCA of Texas. The president says he also received the information about Garcia from the United Game Fowl Breeders Association. The SPCA says it was already aware of Garcia's criminal background and says that does not change his credibility as an animal welfare investigator.
The United Game Fowl Breeders Association is a cockfighting association, an activity that is outlawed in at least 48 states, and an association that undoubtedly is probably highly motivated to discredit Mr. Garcia and the SPCA. But that doesn't invalidate the information they provided.
I think Mr. Garcia's criminal history does bear on his credibility, and if I were a juror, I'd want to know a lot more about him than he's apparently willing to admit.
There's more to be found here, which includes a description of the conditions the animals were said to be living in, and the corrective actions Mr. Garcia allegedly required the defendant to take before charges were brought.
I certainly don't know enough to assess the merits of the case brought against the defendant, but I am mindful of Mr. Stossel's report and Mr. Garcia's lack of candor, and if I were the prosecutor, I'd find both disturbing.
Thanks to Mike E. for the heads up, and to my anonymous source for the inside information.